Crime victims and law enforcement officials have launched an effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, claiming the sweeping changes he has initiated since taking office in December favor the rights of criminals over their victims.
Organizers began to gather the signatures needed to file an intent to recall late last month during a “Victims Vigil’’ at the downtown Hall of Justice. At least 100 people attended, including many crime victims and Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, an outspoken critic of Gascon’s changes.
Former District Attorney Steve Cooley, Former Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine and former county Supervisor Michael Antonovich are among the former elected officials supporting the recall.
The recall effort needs valid signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in the county, or about 590,000 people, to qualify for the ballot. Organizers say they’ll actually aim for about 200,000 additional signatures since many could be thrown out for various reasons.
Elected officials must be in office for at least 90 days before a recall effort can be launched. Gascon was sworn in on Dec. 7.
Gascon has moved to dramatically overhaul the county’s criminal justice system through a series of unilaterally imposed “special directives’’ since taking office.
The policy changes, which include no longer seeking death sentences and abandoning sentencing enhancements that could lead to lifetime imprisonment for all but the most egregious crimes, have drawn fire and legal challenges from Gascon’s own prosecutors and other current and former district attorneys.
Gascon ran as a reformer in his 2020 race against two-term incumbent Jackie Lacey, making it clear that attacking what he called the systemic racism of the criminal justice system would be his top priority. But the group Recall George Gascon says he misled voters on the extent of his planned changes.
“Within minutes of being sworn in, [Gascon] has made drastic changes that he did not disclose when campaigning that are letting violent and dangerous criminals back out onto our streets. This is unacceptable. He fooled the voters of LA County and must be removed from office,” the group said, adding that the district attorney has gone “far beyond his promised progressive approach to law enforcement.”
Tinisch Hollins, California state director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, told City News Service that any recall effort right now is “irresponsible’’ and “a dangerous distraction from the crises facing our communities that are a direct result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.’’